Thursday, October 29, 2009

The tale of Boon Island Light

Halloween is still two days away, Laura Dolce of Seacoast Online told two nice lighthouse stories in her article today. I especially like the second one she told, I think it's a bitter sweet love story:

Of Maine's lighthouse legends none are as eerie, perhaps, as the tale of Boon Island Light.

Six miles off the coast of York, the lighthouse can be found on a rocky island in the sea. According to William O. Thomson, the Kennebunk author of 26 books including "Stories and Legends Along the Maine Coast," the story begins sometime in the 1840s when a young lighthouse keeper, Luke Bright, brought his new wife, Katherine, to the island to live.

The couple was married only a short time, Thomson said, when December brought a howling nor'easter to the island. Despite the danger to himself, Luke Bright decided he needed to make his way from the house to the light tower to light the light so any ships out in the storm would be guided safely to shore.

"He tied a rope to his waist and went out in the storm," Thomson said. "He was trying to secure the bolt in the tower when he slipped into the ocean and drowned."

His widow, Katherine, dragged Luke's body back to the tower and sat with her dead husband.

"She held his hand," Thomson said. "And she kept the light going for five days, climbing 164 steps each time. Finally, the lantern went out because she had run out of fuel."

Once the people on land realized the light had gone out, a fisherman rowed out to the island to check on the Brights. They found Luke dead and Katherine beside him in the freezing cold tower.

"It was 10 below in the tower," Thomson said. "She died a short time later."

It wasn't, however, the last people heard from Katherine.

"Keepers on the island reported hearing a woman's voice," Thomson said. "It cries, 'Luke'."

On dark nights, keepers have also reported strange things.

"They hear a knock on the door," Thomson said. "When they go out, they see an apparition in the form of a woman. It floats away to the tower."

That isn't the only strange things that have happened in the tower, he said.

"Dogs and cats will not go in that tower," he said.

And several keepers have reported that when they were unable to get back to the island to light the light, someone's done it for them.

"It goes on all by itself," Thomson said. "Foghorns have gone off by themselves.

It's like someone's looking over the place."

I always fascinated by lighthouses. What can be more poetic? Recall this Wadsworth Longfellow's tribute to the lighthouses:
No one alone: from each projecting cape
And perilous reef along the ocean’s verge,
Starts into life a dim, gigantic shape,
Holding its lantern o’er the restless surge.

Like the great giant Christopher it stands
Upon the brink of the tempestuous wave,
Wading far out among the rocks and sands,
The night o’er taken mariner to save.

And the great ships sail outward and return
Bending and bowing o’er the billowy swells,
And ever joyful, as they see it burn
They wave their silent welcome and farewells.
Or Robert Louis Stevenson's for the Light-Keeper:
The brilliant kernel of the night,
The flaming lightroom circles me:
I sit within a blaze of light

Held high above the dusky sea.
Far off the surf doth break and roar
Along bleak miles of moonlit shore,

Where through the tides the tumbling wave
Falls in an avalanche of foam
And drives its churned waters home
Up many an undercliff and cave.

As a matter of fact at my retirement my old Lab Director, Dr. Al, gave me a small replica of the Big Sable lighthouse of Luddington, Michigan in Lake Michigan. He certainly knows that I am a wave aficionado, he must have guessed correctly that I will be a lighthouse enthusiast also. I really cherish that thoughtful gift.

Thanks Al!


While I am at it, I would like to also mention the the thoughtful card Al and Ruth gave me for my retirement, two years ago, with this verse:
As you retire:

Success lies not
in how well-known you are
but how well-respected.
It's measured by
the height of your aspirations,
the breath of your vision, and the depth of your convinctions.
It's something I'll treasure all my life!

Perilous nearshore freaque waves at beach

According to Indigo Guide, the resort of Salou is "located in the Spanish region of Catalonia on the Costa Dorada. This aptly named Costa (literally "the Gold Coast") extends from the north of Barcelona to south of Tarragona with seemingly endless stretches of clean, soft sandy beaches and crystal clear water. Salou is the undisputed capital of this coastline which is one of the Mediterranean's most popular playgrounds."

Here's a panoramic picture of Salou beach I found from InfoHub:

There is a news item in the Cambridge News this morning reporting an instance happened there recently illustrate the peril of beach going even in popular resort beach like Salou:
A FATHER has spoken of his relief that his son survived a freak drowning accident in Spain which claimed two lives.

Mark Smith, 25, was on holiday in the resort of Salou with pub chef Mark Porter, 29, who drowned while swimming late at night and being struck by freak waves that threw him on to rocks.

Bob Smith said: "My son said his feet were swept out from underneath him and he had taken in a lot of water, but he managed to get his head above the water. He could feel the current sucking him under, but saw the shoreline and managed to reach it."

Bob, an ambulance driver from Haverhill, said his son, now back home, was "hugely traumatised". "He did think that he was on his way to drowning, but he managed to cheat death."

Lewis Rice, 24, and Ian Farrant, 32, also from Haverhill, survived too. But Michelle Clydesdale, 24, who met the Haverhill group that night, Wednesday, October 21, died in the tragedy.

So it's another perilous nearshore freaque waves happened at the Salou beach. It has never been very clearly specified, but something to that effect happened. We call it the nearshore freaque waves, but no one can give a clear description of what exactly was happened. It was perilous nevertheless. Again some were lucky, some were not. In this case as Mark felt "his feet were swept out from underneath him" and that "the current sucking him under" indicate undoubtedly that other nearshore processes like undertoe and may be rip currents were also involved along with being thrown on to rocks by a freaque wave. Clearly perilous things do exist on any beaches, whether or not it's a popular resort. Yes, beach resorts are for holidays, but one just can not overlook the perils of beach going. Safety! safety! safety! No matter where ever you might be.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A rescue off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador

This case happened over the weekend off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada as this Metronews article reports:
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - The owner of a fishing vessel that sank off Fogo Island, N.L., on the weekend blames the sinking on a rogue wave.

Alan Starkes of LaScie, N.L., was not on the Seafaring Legend at the time but says the four men who were had only about seven minutes from the time the wave hit to when the boat broke apart.

Maxwell Pittman, 53, of Elliston, N.L., could not get his survival suit on in time and lost his life in the incident.

Starkes says the vessel was carrying about 18,000 kilograms of shrimp, about half of its capacity.

He praised search and rescue officials for having a helicopeter on scene in about two hours.

Starkes says the skipper and the two crewmembers who did survive were very fortunate and must have had someone looking over them.
There's not much details about the freaque wave encountered as usual. But since there are three survivors, the case should be more than speculation. Especially the indication that they have only seven minutes for survival after encountered the freaque wave. Sadly we learned that the one that was lost was because he could not get his survival suit on in time.

The Canada's Air force site has this following picture

and detailed rescuing report by Jill St. Marseille:

103 Search and Rescue (SAR) Squadron from 9 Wing Gander was called to duty on October 23 when a satellite system picked up a distress beacon of a fishing vessel off the coast of Newfoundland.

Once on scene, approximately 65 miles (105 kilometres) north of Fogo Island or 100 miles (160 kilometres) north of Gander, the CH-149 Cormorant helicopter crew could not locate the vessel, the Seafaring Legend, as it had already gone under, so the crew then searched for a life raft. Despite unfavourable at-sea conditions, they found two.

“The winds were approximately 35 knots (65 km/h) and we assessed the sea state to be the equivalent to a sea state seven, which in general terms means 15 to 20 foot (4.5 to 6 meter) swells,” said Major Steve Reid, Aircraft Commander on the mission.

These kinds of conditions cause particular grief for search and rescue crews when searching for a life raft is involved.

“The wind and the sea state is what made it the most challenging. A life raft in the water can be challenging even when it’s dead calm with no wind so the sea state definitely added to the difficulty of performing the mission,” said Sergeant Morgan Biderman, a 103 Sqn search and rescue technician (SAR Tech).

The first life raft held one member of the Seafaring Legend. He was successfully hoisted off the life raft and into the helicopter and once inside he alerted the crew that there was a second life raft with two occupants on board. It was found, along with two other survivors of the sunken vessel. The second hoist caused more problems than the first one but, thanks to a highly efficient and adaptable team, a new approach to the situation was taken.

“The second was very difficult to maintain a hover because of the speed that the life raft was moving,” said Sergeant Kent Gulliford, SAR Tech. “We had no frame of reference for the pilot up front so they were flying ’blind’. The crew opted to switch to a technique where the flight engineer had limited control of the aircraft; as opposed to telling the pilots where to fly he actually had limited control with a joystick to move the aircraft, called ‘hover trim control’.

“[During such a procedure], the altitude remains the same, but the flight engineer can move the aircraft forward and back, left to right. He was not only hoisting me down vertically, he was also moving the aircraft simultaneous toward the life raft. Hats off to him for taking that much on. It’s something that the flight engineers are able to do and it amazes that they’re able to do that time and time again.”

Three of the four men aboard the vessel were safely rescued. The body of the fourth man aboard the Seafaring Legend was recovered and returned to shore.

I find the picture and the rescue report very informative and educational. Thanks to the 103 SAR team members for a job well done!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Reading I today

Behold, I will bring them back
from the land of the north;
I will gather them from the ends of the world,
with the blind and the lame in their midst,
the mothers and those with child;
they shall return as an immense throng.
They departed in tears,
but I will console them and guide them;
I will lead them to brooks of water,
on a level road, so that none shall stumble.

(Jer 31:8-9)

I Heard The Voice Of Jesus Say Hymn

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Come unto Me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down Thy head upon My breast."
I came to Jesus as I was, weary and worn and sad;
I found in Him a resting place, and He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one, stoop down, and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say, "I am this dark world's Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise, and all thy day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found in Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk, till traveling days are done.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Avoid tragedy when visiting beaches

The Curry Coast Pilot of Brookings, Oregon published a very useful and timely article online today entitled "Avoid tragedy when visiting beaches":

As the first winter storms and accompanying large swells roll across the South Coast, we urge residents and visitors to exercise caution when visiting local beaches.

Experts have predicted several high tides the rest of this month which, combined with high seas, is a good reason to hit local beaches and do some wave watching and beachcombing.

It also means beach visitors should practice extreme caution while enjoying our wild, wonderful coast.

The resulting tidal surges – especially if accompanied by a strong storm – are dangerous for boaters and beachcombers, creating unpredictable, sharp-breaking waves that could claim a life.

So far, there have been no reports of people in Curry County being swept from the beach by waves. However, last year several people had close calls and a Crescent City man died when a wave swept him off a jetty there. High surf and dangerous beach conditions will remain a constant along our shore through spring.

If you visit the beach to witness the wave action yourself, please practice a little common sense. Sneaker waves can sweep people away in the blink of an eye.

Winter waves also pose a danger to recreational boaters. Rogue waves have been blamed for several fatal boat accidents in Curry County in recent years.

In many cases, the victims were not wearing life jackets, which would have increased the their chances of survival. It’s nearly impossible to find a life jacket and put one on after a boat has capsized or is swamped.

To help avoid tragedy, we offer the following tips when on or near the ocean:

Never turn your back on it. Stay off jetties or any low flat beach. Stay away from edges of cliffs, headlands and rocks where waves are breaking nearby. Never climb on driftwood, especially when waves are high.

The Oregon Coast is a beautiful place in winter. It’s also dangerous. Please be careful.

I added the above emphasizes. These super advices do not apply to Oregon coast only. All beach visitors should be fully aware these simple advices everywhere. Don't take anything for granted. It is so true that "Sneaker waves can sweep people away in the blink of an eye." There is no clear definition on sneaker waves, any wave can be one at the wrong place and the wrong time. Just be alert and beware!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Daredevil kayaker show

UK Daily Mail has an article with pictures that can really wake you up in the morning:

That was a 70 feet plunge into the icy waters below, and here's the intrepid kayaker, Luke Spencer, in person. All thumbs up for Luke!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Chien Tang River tidal bore II

Two years ago I first blogged about the Chien Tang River tidal bore. It has been known that every year on the 18th day of the 8th lunar month, the tidal bore at the Chien Tang River approaches the higerst strength. I found this frightening video that really takes the fun out of visiting it for some:

Now this following video report made a few days prior to that lunar 18th day/8th month date, which was already showing some spectacular surging waves. (If the Chinese reporting bothers you, please turn off the sound just watch what was happening out there.)

I found the Wikipedia actually provided a pretty good simple explanation on the formation of tidal bores:
Bores occur in relatively few locations worldwide, usually in areas with a large tidal range (typically more than 6 metres (20 ft) between high and low water), and where incoming tides are funneled into a shallow, narrowing river via a broad bay. The funnel-like shape not only increases the height of the tide, but it can also decrease the duration of the flood tide down to a point where the flood appears as a sudden increase in the water level.
Finally for my Chinese friends, I found the following classical style poetry from here by a contemporary poet in Taiwan which I think really successfully brought out the powerfulness of what we saw from the phenomenon:


SS Atlantic

White Star Line is a prominent British shipping company famous for its ill-fated luxury flagship, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg and sank in 1912. But a not well known case of White Star Line 's SS Atlantic also had a disastrous end earlier in 1873. A recently published book "SS Atlantic: The White Star Line's First Disaster at Sea, by Greg Cochkanoff and Bob Chaulk, Goose Lane Editions, revisits this case. There's also an earlier 2006 book "Destiny's Voyage: SS Atlantic the Titanic of 1873" by Bob Love published by Authorhouse. Of particular notable to me about the case of SS Atlantic is the fact that the disaster of SS Atlantic was happened during a bad storm. Did they ever encountered a freaque wave? That was never been asked in 1873 and ever since. We can certainly assumed that they did not. But I just can't help think if that were happened today, the kind of blaming on freaque waves as an excuse will not be too far behind.

Here's a picture of SS Atlantic from here:

and an artist's rendition of SS Atlantic disaster from Currier and Ives:

Sunday, October 18, 2009

From Reading II today

So let us confidently approach
the throne of grace
to receive mercy and
to find grace for timely help.
(Heb 4:16)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Freaque cloud

Have you ever seen a cloud like this in the sky? No? Neither have we. This was spotted last Wednesday (October 7, 2009) over Moscow according to this English Pravda article. They even have a video recording for it. Here's a Russian meteorologist's interpretation:
This is purely an optical effect, although it does look impressive. If you look closer, you can see sun rays coming through that cloud. Most likely, the sun was setting when the video was being made. If you observe clouds regularly, you may see many other astonishing things. Clouds of the same class may look absolutely different in different areas. Several fronts have been passing through Moscow recently, there was an intrusion of the Arctic air too, the sun was shining from the west – this is how the effect was produced.
As an amateur cloud watcher myself, I agree that there are many astonishing things in the sky and they are certainly do look different in different areas. One can always come up with plausible or otherwise explanations for the astonishing thing people see. But one thing can be quite certain is that they seldom repeat a peculiar appearance. In this day and age, one can always capture the freaque cloud things in the sky, whether or not there might be likely explanations but a handy digital or video camera can always be get set and ready to shoot!


I think it's good that it was happened over Moscow. If it were happened over Washington D.C. you can be sure to hear that it was most definitely Obama's halo that got away and the photographer will be on Oprah in no time! Wait a minute, how could Obama lost his halo?

Happened in Pebbly Beach

It happened this time at the edge of Pebbly Beach, just north of Batemans Bay,South coast of NSW of Australia as reported by Sam Grovesand Louis Andrews in Canberra Times with the above picture:
A CANBERRA man was missing in high seas off the South Coast last night after an all-day rescue operation that saw swells play havoc with rescuers.

A marine rescue boat capsized around the headland from where the missing tourist was taken by a freak wave when trying to save another man.

Police believe the man had gone to the aid of a 22-year-old washed from the rocks along the edge of Pebbly Beach, just north of Batemans Bay, about 10.30am.

The search was suspended last night but was expected to resume at first light today. Inspector Gary Megay from the Far South Coast Local Area Command said four young people, believed to be in their teens or early 20s, were walking along the rocks when a wave dragged one into the sea.

''The man and his daughter went to try and rescue them, and the man was swept away by another wave,'' he said.

This is a sad story that happened to one man trying to save another man, who was found alive on a nearby beach. Later news from ABC News is not encouraging. Let's pray for a Pebbly Beach miracle. May the Almighty God bless and rescue this good man who's trying to rescue another!

Gospel and Wisdom

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.
(Mark 10:25)

I prayed, and prudence was given me;
I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me.
I preferred her to scepter and throne,
and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her,
nor did I liken any priceless gem to her;
because all gold, in view of her, is a little sand,
and before her, silver is to be accounted mire.
Beyond health and comeliness I loved her,
and I chose to have her rather than the light,
because the splendor of her never yields to sleep.
Yet all good things together came to me in her company,
and countless riches at her hands.
(Wis 7:7-11)

Friday, October 09, 2009

An encounter by Coast Guard vessel Anne Harvey

Station VOCM of Newfoundland and Labrador reported this encounter by the Coast Guard vessel Anne Harvey today:
More details are emerging on an incident involving the Coast Guard vessel Anne Harvey this morning. Two crewmen were rushed to hospital after what appeared to be a rogue wave slammed the vessel just outside the Narrows at about 3am. One man suffered a broken leg and ankle and will undergo surgery today while another was released after observation. The two others on the deck were unharmed. The Anne Harvey had just left the harbour en route to a disabled fishing vessel about 100 miles east of St.John's when Mother Nature intervened. They were positioning the anchor to a state of readiness when a wave washed overboard, slinging the men around. Coast Guard Captain Brian Penney says they were experiencing heavy sea and swell conditions at the time. He says winds were at 60 knots from the north-northeast.
CBC also reports that the Anne Harvey was responding to a call for help from a longliner when the incident happened. The ship resumed her assistance call after the injured crew members were safely removed from the boat. Here's a picture of Anne Harvey shown in the CBC article:

So it is again a reminder that freaque waves can happen anywhere, anytime, even to a vessel en route to a rescue mission. This is certainly the time of the year for rough waves, not necessarily freaque waves either. Thank God that there was no major mishap in this encounter.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Stories of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics

I got interested in the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics for obvious reasons: the winner of 1/2 of the prize, Charles Kao, is of Chinese origin and I think I know his younger brother. But this super New York Times article told the background stories of all three winners and made their accomplishments easily understandable, even to me:

Fiber optic cables and lasers capable of sending pulses of light down them already existed when Dr. Kao started working on fiber optics. But at that time, the light pulses could travel only about 20 meters through the glass fibers before 99 percent of the light had dissipated. His goal was to extend the 20 meters to a kilometer. At the time, many researchers thought tiny imperfections, like holes or cracks in the fibers, were scattering the light.

In January 1966, Dr. Kao, then working at the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in England, presented his findings. It was not the manufacturing of the fiber that was at fault, but rather that the ingredient for the fiber — the glass — was not pure enough. A purer glass made of fused quartz would be more transparent, allowing the light to pass more easily. In 1970, researchers at Corning Glass Works were able to produce an ultrapure optical fiber more than a half-mile long.

A news release from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where Dr. Kao worked as a professor and later a vice chancellor, quoted Dr. Kao’s reaction: “This is very, very unexpected. Fiber optics has changed the world of information so much in these last 40 years. It certainly is due to the fiber optical networks that the news has traveled so fast.”

According to the academy in its prize announcement, the optical cables in use today, if unraveled, would equal a fiber more than 600 million miles long.
Now the other 1/2 of the prize shared by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, for inventing the semiconductor sensor known as a charge-coupled device, or CCD.

In January 1966, Dr. Kao, then working at the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories in England, presented his findings. It was not the manufacturing of the fiber that was at fault, but rather that the ingredient for the fiber — the glass — was not pure enough. A purer glass made of fused quartz would be more transparent, allowing the light to pass more easily. In 1970, researchers at Corning Glass Works were able to produce an ultrapure optical fiber more than a half-mile long.

A news release from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, where Dr. Kao worked as a professor and later a vice chancellor, quoted Dr. Kao’s reaction: “This is very, very unexpected. Fiber optics has changed the world of information so much in these last 40 years. It certainly is due to the fiber optical networks that the news has traveled so fast.”

According to the academy in its prize announcement, the optical cables in use today, if unraveled, would equal a fiber more than 600 million miles long.

In September 1969, Dr. Boyle and Dr. Smith, working at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, N.J., sketched out an idea on a blackboard in Dr. Boyle’s office. “He had a bigger office than me,” Dr. Smith recalled in a telephone interview. “The two of us frequently got together just to kick ideas around.”

Their idea takes advantage of the photoelectric effect, which was explained by Albert Einstein and won him the Nobel in 1921. When light hits a piece of silicon, it knocks out electrons. The brighter the light, the more electrons are knocked out.

The two were initially brainstorming how to make a new type of electronic memory. “But in my first notebook entry,” Dr. Smith said, “I fully described how we would use it as an imaging device as well.”

In a CCD, the knocked-out electrons are gathered in small wells, where they are counted — essentially one pixel of an image. The data from an array of CCDs can then be reconstructed as an image. The technology was intended for a picture phone but the project was canceled, and Dr. Boyle and Dr. Smith moved on to other research topics even as CCDs began to spread around the planet.

“We are the ones, I guess, that started this profusion of little small cameras working all over the world,” Dr. Boyle said. A 10-megapixel camera contains 10 million CCDs.

Besides consumer cameras, CCDs also made possible the cosmic panoramas from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Martian postcards taken by NASA landers.
Well, we all use internet and digital cameras daily without any hesitation, it's just part of our modern life now. It will not be the case without the ingenious contributions of these three scientists. They are certainly most deserving -- may be a little belated by about 40 years. Of course better late than never. They have all been amply honored in their life from many other sources. But a Nobel is still the brightest of them all!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Quick-thinking Samoans

The Sydney Morning Herald yesterday published a report on the comments made by New Zealand Prime Minister John Key upon his return from a visit to the tsunami devastated area of Samoa on Saturday. I found his remarks informative but not comforting.

It was informative because Mr. Key "said the earthquake that caused the tsunami shook the resort of Sinalei for about three minutes." And

"They had no advice about a tsunami but they noticed the waves and the water receding," he told a news conference.

"They immediately got people out of their fales (huts) to the extent where they actually knocked and then broke down the doors of some of them.

"They dragged those people up the hill and within minutes the resort was washed away.

"If they hadn't acted so quickly I think there would have been dozens more New Zealanders killed."

I can't quite find any comfort from these remarks because it is clear that all the modern science and technology have absolutely no use in these cases. The title of the SMH article is "Quick-thinking Samoans saved tourists"! Yes, indeed, not any of the sophisticated recording instruments around the oceans, not the all encompassing fancy models that all the government brasses like to show off, have any use during those critical three minutes. It was really the alert local Samoans noticing "the waves and water receding" and immediately starting their life saving operation that really did saved lives.

The good thing, if at all, is that we can reasonably assume that there are probably no ambulance chasers in Samoa and even American Samoa, so those clever "quick-thinking" samoans should not in anyway worry about possible law suits for dragged people out of their hut to safety before their hut was washed away.

Now perhaps the unsung question is whether or not the fancy models can be expected to recognize "wave and water receeding" and translate into life saving actions immediately also. How do the elite scientists that produced those fancy models think of the simple empirical "wave and water receeding" idea as compare to the deductions from Navier-Stokes equations?

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mid-Autumn Festival tragedy

This tragic story reported in the Standard of Hong Kong by Adele Wong on Monday, October 5, 2009:
An 18-year-old was missing and presumed drowned in the waters off Shek O last night, after a Mid-Autumn Festival party that went terribly wrong.

The man, Lo Siu-cheung, spent Saturday night at the beach with about a dozen friends and schoolmates to celebrate the festival and enjoy a barbecue. Early yesterday, after most had gone home, Lo tagged along when two remaining members of the group decided to have a dip around 7am.

A source said Lo did not know how to swim, and was paddling around clinging to a float. About 10 meters out, he got sucked under a wave and failed to surface.

It is really sad that an otherwise happy celebration the brightest full moon of Mid-Autumn Festival will end up a tragedy. It just can't be over-emphasized the perils of being on the beach. Ocean waves are not something that can be taken for granted. It was not even a freaque wave involved here.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

St Paul's shipwreck in 60 AD near Malta

I was in Malta two weeks ago attending a meeting. According to Wikipedia, the Republic of Malta is a developed European country in the European Union, with about 300 square kilometers area over 400 thousands people, situated centrally in the Mediterranean Sea, 93 km south of Sicily (Italy) and 288 km north-east of Tunisia. Gibraltar is 1,826 km to the west and Alexandria 1,510 km to the east.

One of the historical aspects that interested me the most was that more than 1600 years before Christopher Columbus's adventures, around 60AD, St. Paul, the Apostle, had a shipwreck near Malta that was prominently recorded by St. Luke in Acts:27:28. (Older Bibles may use "Melita" but newer versions used Malta.) There's a bay in northeast shore of Malta called St.Paul's Bay. I did not have time to visit there. Pope Benedict XVI has announced to go to Malta to celebrate/commemorate 1950th year of St. Paul's shipwreck. Pope John Paul II visited Malta twice. Malta is a highly Catholic country. One taxi driver told me that Malta has only one Islam Mosque but more than 300 Catholic Churches. It's a pity the resort where we had the conference is in the middle of nowhere. I did not see any church nearby.

What most of the Malta travel lore did not seem to have alluded to is that the story of St Paul's shipwreck was actually painted by Nicolò Circignani, known as Pomarancio at the West Wall in the first floor of the Meridian Hall in Vatican.

With full view:

I found the detail about the paintings from here.

It has widely accepted that St Paul's shipwreck had been archaeologically substantiated. As the Acts 27 recorded, St Paul and companies battled severe storms for over 4 days. It is not known if they have ever encountered any freaque waves. They might have, there is no reason that they might not. But in the midst of continuous storms, no one can distinguish between storm waves and freaque waves, if they are there, anyway!

Gospel today of St. Francis of Assisi

At that time Jesus said in reply,
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
"Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for your selves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light."
(Matthew 11:25:30.)

Friday, October 02, 2009

Other Samoa tsunami surviving stories

Here's another heart warming story of surviving the Samoa tsunami reported in Telegraph:

A young British woman has described the terrifying moment waves smashed through her windscreen and water filled her car after she attempted to outrun the tsunami on Samoa.

Rachel Pooley, 27, was staying in the Taufau Resort in the village of Lalomanu on the southeastern coast, with her Samoan boyfriend when the earthquake struck just after dawn.

She said the tremor woke them but they thought the danger was over until locals warned them they needed to run for their lives.

"It was powerful but once it stopped everyone thought it was over," she said.

"My boyfriend went to brush his teeth. But then the kids in the bungalow next door to us were running up the beach screaming saying 'The water has gone, we have to go'."

Miss Pooley, from Hertford, ran to the shower block to alert her boyfriend, Tolu Taranaki, to the danger.

She said: "We jumped in the car thinking it was the quickest way out, but we got about five metres down the road before the first wave hit. I didn't even see it coming.

"The wave hit our car and the windscreen smashed. I was screaming 'We have got to get out' and water was coming in.

"I think we climbed into the back of the car and we were trying to smash the window. We were in the wave for about two to three minutes."

Mr Taranaki managed to smash a window and pull himself out of the car, but another surge struck before he could free his girlfriend.

"He had hold of my hand and as he got through the second wave must have hit and the car went down. I lost his hand and the car filled with water."

Miss Pooley, moved to Samoa to live with Mr Taranaki, 29, just six weeks before the tsunami hit, described her terror at being trapped alone in the sinking car.

"I was searching for air but there was none. I was gulping and gulping black water. I was smashing on the roof of the car, smashing everywhere, my face was all cut and smashed up.

"Then the car came up a tiny bit and I took half a breath. I was panicking, I was trying to get out, but then I gave up. I said to myself 'Rach, calm down. If this is it, you can't do anything'.

"I relaxed in the water and I said a prayer. I'm not religious, but I said 'Please let Tolu be alive. Please let me out of this car. We can't die like this'.

"Then two seconds later the back of the car came out of the wave. I saw daylight and scrambled through the window."

Miss Pooley, who suffered cuts to her face, arms and feet that would become infected from the putrid water, found Mr Taranaki clinging to a tree with deep gashes to his back and torso. Despite their injuries, the pair were able to get away from the coast to higher ground.

But the following moments were pure chaos, she said.

"We looked back and there was just nothing left. We saw children with nails stuck in their heads. Some kids were screaming for their dad 'Run dad, run', then this guy covered in blood and completely naked ran up the hill."

While most people were fleeing to higher ground, some locals were diving back into the churning water desperately searching for survivors.

"I heard local boys down in the sea, they were screaming for boats. Some of them were diving back in to get people. One boy rescued about five people on his own. I saw another man running uphill with a woman on his back."

Miss Pooley credits her survival to their split-second decision to jump into the car.

"We were lucky because we were in the car for so long when the waves were smashing us around.

The roofs of the bungalows are made of iron and when they collapsed all the iron was coming towards us. However terrible it was in the car, it saved our lives."

And also the story of this lucky British couple:

Anna and Christopher Griffiths, from Pembrokeshire, had planned a two-week holiday to Samoa as part of their joint 30th birthday celebrations.

Mr Griffiths, 30, said: "There were two huge waves coming right us. Two lines of white water absolutely powering at us. I could hear it after it crossed the reef. It was coming at such a speed." The couple, dressed only in their underwear, "just ran for our lives".

With the first surge of the wave at their feet, the couple sprinted for a sheer cliff that stood metres behind the bungalows.

"Chris got a little bit higher up than me and he was able to hold on to a tree and grab me but there was people behind who were not so lucky.

"We went higher and higher in case another one was coming. You could see it through the trees and you could hear it, there was swell still hitting and you could see it still swirling around."

Mrs Griffiths said she and her husband were among the last to make it out alive.

"I didn't look back any further because I didn't want to see what was down there. There were people down there in the water.

"It's unbelievable because there was so many people who I thought were running at the same speed as us, but we haven't seen them since.

"Someone must have been looking after me. St Christopher, perhaps."

It is wonderful to read lucky surviving stories. Of course there are many more heart-breaking tragic stories also. Let us pray for all the unlucky ones and thank the Lord for lucky ones. It is gratifying to see that Miss Pooley, not being religious, still managed to remember saying a prayer at the crisis moment. Praise be to God!

Surfers surviving Samoa tsunami

Two separate happy ending stories of surfer surviving the tsunami:

A 22 years old British surfer, Tom Gogola, was in Samoa for a three-week holiday when the island was hit by a 20 ft wall of water. As reported in Telegraph, he was surfing at the time and was confronted with the monster wave as it powered to shore,
Mr Gogola, of Kingsbridge, Devon, survived by paddling over the tidal wave.
Another New Zealand surfer, Chris Nel, and his fellow surfers used their skills to laid down their surfboard and rode the giant waves to safety as reported by Stephanie Rogers of Mother Nature Network. Here's Nel's description on what happened:
"All of a sudden the water went real weird, it kind of glassed off and got real lumpy, then we started moving real quick, getting sucked out to sea. It was pretty scary looking back and seeing the reef completely dried up. It looked like a volcanic riverbed — it was just gone."
We have seen before that surfers can help to save life with their surfboard. Now we know the surfboard can certainly be a safety device to save their own lives also.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Some Samoa Tsunami human stories

There have plenty of news reports about all aspects of the Samoa Tsunami disaster. Here are some real human stories that are somehow wave related -- not necessarily freaque waves, but they could be:

From TVNZ:

A two-year-old Auckland boy is missing and presumed dead after being swept away from his parents in the Samoan tsunami.

The child had been on a beach on Samoa's main island of Upolu when the 6m wave struck, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported.

His parents, who have yet to be named, swam to safety.

After being taken to hospital yesterday with minor injuries, the parents were discharged later and are staying at the New Zealand High Commission in Samoa.

The family were holidaying at a resort near the village of Lalomanu. Tsunami warnings were given, and the newspaper reported they were trying to escape to higher ground when the waves struck.

From the Australian:

THE husband of a woman killed in the Pacific tsunami has described the moment she was torn from his arms as the desperately pair clung for survival.

John and Maree Blacker were holidaying in Samoa to celebrate her 50th birthday when they were swept up in a huge wall of water in Samoa early yesterday morning.

The couple were in their room when the earthquake hit and ran to the carpark and held on to each other as the first wave came.

Mr Blacker, who survived the deluge, said his wife Maree was torn from his arms and drowned as the couple were swept up by a second wall of water.

The Tasmanian told The Hobart Mercury that the wave tossed him around, submerged him and pounded him with debris, for what seemed forever.

Mr Blacker, who cannot swim, said he found it impossible to believe he had survived.

Somehow he was able to anchor himself to a palm tree.
From brisbane times:

A Sunshine Coast couple are lucky to be alive after a tsunami swept through their luxurious Samoan boutique resort early yesterday morning.

Chris and Wendy Booth were forced to cling desperately to an outside handrail as water surged up through the floor of the Sea Breeze resort, smashing out the back door and throwing them outside.

"We managed to hang on to a handrail. My husband and I just hung on to each other and the handrail and then that one (wave) went, but the suck-out was tremendous," Wendy Booth told Fairfax Radio network.

"The force of the wave took furniture through the roof. The furniture was pushed with the ferocity of the wave through the ceiling."

An Australian reflection on Samoa tsunami

This superb article today by Deborah Smith, Science Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald gives something for all of us to contemplate. In particular:
Earthquakes and tsunami have long racked our region, and despite new technologies to detect them, some ancient wisdom needs to be revived to survive, say scientists.

Kevin McCue, president of the Australian Earthquake Engineering Society, said tsunami warning systems were useless in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.

All residents and tourists to the South-West Pacific and South-East Asia needed to learn a simple message, that waiting for a phone or radio alert could be fatal. ''If you are near the sea and feel a large earthquake [that lasts longer than 30 seconds] then immediately make for a spot at least 10 metres above the high-water mark and wait there for several hours.''

Tony Leggett, of the Bureau of Meteorology, said people also needed to be aware that the tide did not always go out before a tsunami hit.

Tsunamis seemed more common because of better communications from remote areas. Fifty years ago, this week's devastation in Samoa might have gone unnoticed elsewhere, or been dismissed as the result of a ''freak wave'', he said.

While scientists had accurately predicted the spread of the Samoan tsunami, the science of determining which earthquakes would cause big waves was ''primitive'' compared with weather forecasting, he said.

This meant authorities were still erring on the side of caution in issuing tsunami alerts. The impact of giant waves, however, had grown due to population increases. ''And more people are living on the coast,'' he said.

I especially like the advice that "some ancient wisdom needs to be revived to survive." That really means rely on your own instinct rather than waiting for the expert "warnings'. Be alert at your surroundings and feel it rather than waiting and wishing on the data from the radio or computer. That applies to the surviving of freaque wave encounters also! Science and technology can help to some extent. But you are really on your own out there!